Tag Archives: Oecologies

Crisis. Oct 8.



On Tuesday we discussed the infographics; wrapped up Shrew; talked briefly about literary genre; and made an initial assault on Lear. I want to know why Lear divides his kingdoms, and/or if the kingdoms are divided prior to the line: “Meantime we will express our darker purposes” (1.36).

Was the decision made in advance?
YES: Gloucester seems to know the king plans to divide the kingdoms (1.3-5); Gonoril and Regan seem to have prepared their speeches in advance (1.49-55 & 1.63-69); and Burgundy seems to have some prior knowledge “of what your highness has offered” (1.184).

Was the decision made in the moment?
YES: The outcome of the ‘love pledge contest’ Lear declares is serious, especially when we consider the ambiguity of lines like: “Tell me, my daughters,/Which of you shall we say doth love us most,/that we our largest bounty may extend/Where merit doth most challenge it” (1.44-47); Cordilia is not prepared for the contest (1.70-73); Lear ultimately splits the kingdom in half because Cordlia’s speech does not flatter him; and both Cordilia and Kent attempt to persuade Lear to recant what they think is a bad, or perhaps rash, decision (1.140-43)

Types of Choices

Choices Descriptions
Incentive Moment “Aristotle explains that a peripeteia occurs when a character produces an effect opposite to that which he intended to produce, while an anagnorisis ‘is a change from ignorance to knowledge, producing love or hate between the persons destined for good or bad fortune.’ He argues that the best plots combine these two as part of their cause-and-effect chain (i.e., the peripeteia leads directly to the anagnorisis); this in turns creates the catastrophe, leading to the final ‘scene of suffering'” (Outline of Aristotle’s Theory of Tragedy)
Rash Boon A blind promise that often spurns the action in Romances or fairy tales (EX: Knight in Wife of Bath’s Tale); when a character vows to grant a wish and then is bound to follow through on the vow, despite not knowing the terms of the contract or what is expected of him in advance
Suspension “’To suspend: ‘To debar temporarily’…’To hold in an undecided state, to keep from falling off sinking’… “Suspension may denote a pause in action, but this pause could be considered akin to the precautionary principle, in which we recognize that the world’s intra-active material agencies often make it prudent to await ‘further information’” (Alaimo 476 & 477)
Decision (worthy of the name) “Because every decision (by its essence a decision is exceptional and sovereign) must escape the order of the possible, of what is already possible and programable for the supposed subject of the decision, because every decision worthy of the name must be this exceptional scandal of a passive decision” (Derrida, The Beast and the Sovereign, 2nd Session 33)

For Your Consideration:
So what? What difference does it make to any of the action that follows that the decision at the center of the play is ambiguous? Also, after Lear who gets to choose?



Part I. Freewrite

I. Write a response to the following question for three straight minutes:
What is Nature?
II. Write a response to the following question for five straight minutes:
What is Nature according to King Lear?



Part II. Group Activity

Get into the groups listed below; introduce yourselves; and then respond to questions. Be prepared to cite specific examples from the text during discussion.


  • 1. Kelsey, Madison, Patrick, Hannah P, & June
  • 2. Beau, Ainee, Hannah M., Caroline, & Sun
  • 3. Robert, Kira, Sarah, Nicholas, & Jeffrey
  • 4. Isabelle, Shamala, Thomas, Danny, & Tony
  • 5. Angeline, Chan, Alexandra, & Bailey


According to Stacy Alaimo, what allows humans to decide “to ignore the current crisis of ocean conservation” (480)? What strategies does she propose humans deploy to pay attention to the ocean crisis? What are some instances in King Lear, similar to some of the instances that Alaimo analyzes in her paper, that help bridge the (figurative and/or literal) gap between human and alien habitats?

Blog Post 3


RQ: Alaimo (476-85) & Lear 6-8



Keep the following questions in mind as you read Stacy Alaimo’s “States of Suspension: Trans-corporeality at Sea,” and King Lear scenes 6-8. The questions are designed to guide your reading practices and our class discussions. You are not required to provide formal answers in class or online.

Alaimo, “States of Suspension: Transcorporeality at Sea”

What does Alaimo mean by the following terms: suspension, transcorporeality, new materialism, posthumanism, and environmental justice?

Why does she suggest critics and environmentalists should trace the “substantial interchanges [that] render the human permeable” (477)?

What characteristics of the ocean make it particularly difficult to grasp?

What are some connections between humans and the sea? OR, how are terrestrial humans and marine creatures linked?

How do our environmental commitments shift if we accept that “transcorporeal subjects are always themselves part of global networks of responsibility,” (477)?

What does Alaimo mean by “buoyancy” (478)?

What does she mean when she says, “Most new materialists, would, I think, be skeptical of origin stories. As heretical descendants of postmodernism and poststructuralism, they maintain a critical stance toward foundations and essentialisms” (478)?

What happens when we take the statement “‘My mother is a fish,’ as a literal description of human ancestry” (478)?

Why is Lear (and/or people in general) “disturbed by the idea that their own bodies bear traces of their evolutionary origins in other creatures” (479)?

“Darwin, in a letter, cheerfully proclaimed, ‘Our ancestor was an animal which breathed water, had a swim bladder, a great swimming tail, an imperfect skull, and undoubtedly was a hermaphrodite! Here is a pleasant genealogy of mankind’ (qtd. Zimmer)” (479).

Does “physical relatedness provoke a rich kinship” (480)?

What allows humans “to ignore the current crisis of ocean conservation” (480)?

Is recognition of kinship enough to motivate a ethics of care or an environmental activism that locates humans as part of a cluster and not at the center?

What, according to Alaimo, does Rachel Carson’s personification of the sea accomplish? Does the personification of the sea, air, wind, rain, etc. in King Lear accomplish similar goals? Why or why not?

What does Alaimo value in the book Your Inner Fish? What does she critique

King Lear, Scenes 6-8